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January 11, 2014

Stat Attack - Elite Goalscorers in Europe 2010-11

By Ted Knutson

Part 1: Messi did not have the best goalscoring rate in two of the last four seasons.
Part 2: Defining elite goalscoring, and the top scorers of 2009-10.

This piece assumes you have read at least part 2, since that talks about the various acronyms used in this piece and explains why one would bother to normalize goalscoring data in the first place.

Today I will be posting all the top goalscoring stats from 2010-11 and talking a bit about the specific findings from that particular year. They are posted in sortable table format so that they are easy to swipe and re-use for your own research, should you be into that sort of thing. (I won’t judge.)

Two More Driving Concepts
Yesterday I talked about why we strip out penalties and cut the data into 90 minute increments. Today I want to talk about two additional concepts that have an impact on player evaluation when looking at these stats.

First of all, when young players appear in these numbers, it’s more meaningful than when older players are here.

For the purposes of forward play, “young” players equal 23 and Under, while peak is 24-26, and beyond that most players have a post-peak plateau and often a fairly steep decline. There are a lot of reasons for this, but most of it comes down to the age curve. I’ve written more on this topic here, but the quick and dirty of it is – on average – you can expect younger forwards to continue improving up to age 25-26, at which point their performance tends to peak, and then gradually fall off.

Thus, when you see young players deliver stats that are among the best goalscoring rates in Europe, it’s exciting, because it means there is a reasonable chance they will get even better.

The second concept to keep in mind is a positional one. We expect central forwards to generally exhibit the highest goalscoring rate, and that’s generally true across leagues. However, when wide players or attacking midfielders start showing up in this list, it is very interesting. Sometimes this is a systemic effect based on a unique tactical system, but a lot of times it will indicate unusual goalscoring potential from a position that doesn’t always deliver those numbers. The modern game practically demands you have wide men who can score goals, so showing up here is a good thing, and doubly so when a player is young.

Right, on to the leagues!

EPL 2010-11
The Premier League this season had a long list of guys who were good or very good, topped by three players who were among the best in Europe that year in RVP, Berbatov, and 22-year-old Javier Hernandez (who is now 25, and really deserves a full-time starting role somewhere).

Note a young Andy Carroll is in this list, as are wide men Florent Malouda, and 21-year-old, always productive but oft-injured Theo Walcott.

Jermaine Beckford is also somehow on this list, which is probably the last point he was particularly useful for anyone as a goalscorer. He was already 27 then, which is another reason teams need to pay attention to age when doing transfer business.

LaLiga 2010-11
Man, La Liga this season was loaded. You have Ronaldo and Messi in the Top 5 in Europe, a ton of middle-tier guys posting outstanding rates, and the kids were ridiculous. Sergio Aguero is here, tearing up the league, Salomon Rondon (21, but moved to Rubin Kazan a year later), Pedro (wide+ young), Giuseppe Rossi (ACLs made of twine but still 23) are too, and … Diego Costa, mostly in a secondary role.  

Also here are Benzoil, Gonzo, Soldado, Villa, Negrodo, Llorente, etc – also known as all the guys that either ended up playing at the big 2 in Spain or moving for mucho dinero overseas.

Oh, and uh… Pablo Osvaldo. Outside of one volley, he looks utterly useless since he moved to the Premier League. Alas, no model is foolproof.

Bundesliga 2010-11
Aaaand here I lose my football hipster badge because I have no clue who Novakovic, Allagui, or Lakic are. Sorry.

This was the year that the Gomez Button lead Europe in NPG90, and saw Kiessling doing his, “Even Jogi Lowe doesn’t know who I am, but I’m always near the top of the league in goals but never get called up to the German National Team” thing. Someone will write a play about this eventually, featuring turtlenecks, Nietzsche, and a lot of drawn out sighs. I figure this is Joey Barton’s second career after he hangs up the boots.

You also have a bunch of guys in the middle tier that would become very interesting names shortly thereafter. Lewandowski is 22 there. Schurrle is 20-21 and probably played wide a lot, plus you also have young Kagawa (midfielder bonus points), and Mario Mandzukic.

On the other hand, you have Papiss Cisse (what a great first six months at Newcastle! *ignores the rest of his Tyneside career*), Lucas Barrios, Mladen Petric (sorry Fulham, he was too old when you got him), and the aforementioned I-have-no-fucking-clue-who-they-are guys.

SerieA 2010-11
I mentioned on Twitter that there were reasons why Arsenal fans might be interested in the rumored Pato move. As a kid, he was unreal. As an adult, there are questions about his ability to stay healthy and his current motivation. Those scoring numbers though… woof.

Also in the mix here are the eternally underrated Di Natale, 23-year-old Edinson Cavani, young Alessio Cerci (currently having a great season for Torino), young Alexis Sanchez (tearing it up for Barcelona), and a bunch of Italian stalwarts that are good but rarely great.

French 2010-11
Moussa Sow, Lisandro Lopez, and Loic Remy are the pick of the crop from France that season. Sow has maintained the same goalscoring rate since moving to Turkey, Remy has proven himself plenty capable of scoring in the Premier League, and Lopez was at his peak then, had two more good years for Lyon, and now presumably plays on a fat contract in the Middle East.

Also of interest here were 23-year-old Gervinho (he really was great at Lille), and 23-year-old Dimitri Payet (midfielder bonus points), who had an amazing year last season and then has underwhelmed a bit this year since a big move to Marseille.

Article by Ted Knutson